'We are a welcoming community...'

In the 'Anyone heard from...' thread in All Saints:
The Ship can be a horrible place. Having been a victim of online bullying here, and still in contact with someone else who left as a result of bullying, this isn't necessarily the lovely community you all may think it is. If you want it to be that place, then it's up to you all to make it so. Rather than wringing your hands after the event and shouting down every attempt to call people out in Hell.

This really struck a chord with me, as I have been thinking about how just about every church I have ever encountered has thought of itself as "welcoming" when the reality (like the Ship) can often be very different.

The problem, as I see it, is that church communities (similar to the Ship) is made up of people who 'fit in'. As a result, they feel welcomed and believe themselves to be welcoming. But the people who don't feel welcomed, because their faces don't fit for some reason, don't tend to hang around much. In church contexts, such people will come for a couple of weeks and then drift off. On the Ship, endless people have either walked the plank in a very public manner or (more likely) simply quietly drifted off. Although I have been a part of the Ship since about 2001, there have been a number of times when I have drifted away (not that I think anyone has noticed much). To be perfectly honest, my experience of the Ship at the moment is that it is very like a lot of churches in that there is an inner core who feel very comfortable with one another and who often tend to disregard those who 'don't fit'. That may seem a bit unfair but I am trying to be honest about how I experience the Ship.

Which brings me back to the key questions that I want to ask. How can any community (whether a church or an online community like the Ship) really know how 'welcoming' it actually is? How do we hear the voices of the people who have NOT felt welcomed - the voices of the people who have felt shunned, ignored or belittled? How do we deliberately make space for newbies to find their place in the community without them feeling patronised?

With particular reference to the Ship (although this can also apply with in-person communities), how can newbies safely discuss subjects that old timers feel have already been done to death? How can the situation be avoided where someone innocently raises a topic, only to get both barrels from people who have already discussed this as nauseum and have very fixed opinions?

Let me repeat myself - I am not thinking here solely about the Ship but about about how Christians (whether as church or online communities) exercise the very fundamental ministry of being truly welcoming. In my experience, we are very good at proclaiming how welcoming we are but often utterly crap at actually putting those high-sounding words into practice.
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Comments

  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited May 10
    Communities organize for different purposes. Sometimes, "community" just means "all the people living in a certain area", and sometimes they're organized around particular interests. If I had, for example, a chess club, then "welcoming" would mean welcoming anyone with an interest in playing chess, making sure they were introduced to people at their level who they could play with, making sure they were invited to local chess-related events, or the drink afterwards. But it wouldn't mean welcoming anyone who just wanted to talk loudly about how much they enjoyed the music of Mr. Justin Bieber.

    And perhaps there are different kinds of chess clubs - more social clubs, where some chess is played, but discussing Mr. Bieber alongside a game of chess would be acceptable, and more hard-core clubs, where there is no small-talk. If someone comes to the latter club wanting a beer and a chat, then telling them that you don't do that sort of thing there, but here's the details of a different club they might like, is not unwelcoming.

    My first post on the old ship was in Hell, so I'm probably not the best person to talk about the experience of newcomers to the Ship.

    ETA: I'm an usher at our local TEC shack, and one of the jobs of the ushers is (pre-Covidtide) to ask a couple of congregants to bring the bread and wine to the altar at the offertory. I used to like to invite new people to do that. Not someone who's visiting for the first time, but if you're a new face that I've seen a handful of times, I'll probably ask you. To me, that's a little sign that says "you're included".
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I spent some 4 years ‘church-hopping’ before settling in to a denomination and now into a particular church. I used to arrive on time, alone, and sit at the back, slipping out first at the end. I didn’t want any more than to experience the service. I did however want the people there to seem friendly, to smile as they gave me a service sheet, to be attentive so that I wouldn’t feel abandoned if I needed to ask for help with anything.

    I especially remember one church in which I had trouble finding a service sheet, and in which nobody made eye contact or acknowledged my existence at all. That stands out as the most unwelcoming. Standing alongside it however is one in which they pounced on me and insisted that I sat at the front and stayed for coffee afterwards. Neither was welcoming, as neither recognised me for who I am.

    I’m happy not to be at the core of the community of the ship, as I prefer to be the anonymous one at the back here. It is good to sometimes have eye contact in the form of a reply to a post from time to time, although nowadays I tend to usually post in the circus. I certainly don’t want anyone to be over-attentive though.

    Once attending a church regularly, however, it’s good to get to know the people who attend with us, and to share ourselves with them, but only if they want this. Some people are not ready for it.

    Communities are built, over time. They don’t just happen.
  • churchgeekchurchgeek Shipmate
    I think the OP is raising some very good questions! There are at least two parts to being welcoming - the intention of the group/entity/person who is welcoming, and the reception of that welcome; and a lot can go wrong in the middle.

    Some churches, for example, "welcome" everyone - but then there's a bait and switch because if you're LGBTQ+, for example, they then ask you to change.

    Or, some churches "welcome" everyone - but they forget that people who are very different than them aren't on their radar at all. Should those people walk through the door, while the folks in the church might not have any animosity toward them, they also might have no idea how to make them feel welcome, or any real desire to.

    And the person walking in the door might have certain expectations. Do they feel more welcome if they're greeted enthusiastically, invited to sit with someone, or asked to coffee hour? Or do they feel more welcome if they're acknowledged but mostly left alone to warm to the church as they like? Some people are looking for a more anonymous experience; others want to be fawned over; most of us are probably somewhere in-between.

    And perhaps some people will never feel welcomed in a church that's very different from what they were expecting, through no one's fault.

    And so many, many possibilities.

    I think where bullying and other hostile behaviors exist, it's the responsibility of the community to call that out and fix it. First, they have to see it. That may involve a victim coming forward, which no one should have to do if they don't want to, but if they don't, it might also leave them feeling more and more isolated from the community. It always involves some sensitivity, though.

    Sometimes it's just not the right fit, even despite everyone's best intentions - but also, how often does everyone operate on their best intentions all the time?

    It's so complicated with churches, too, because it's not just the people involved. There's also the building: Is it accessible? Does it meet the person's aesthetic needs? What are they expecting a church to look and feel like?

    And there's the liturgy: Someone who prefers traditional hymns and an organ will likely feel unwelcome in a church that uses a rock band and praise songs, and vice-versa. And it won't be because of anything the people do; for example, the person who likes praise songs and band may feel the more traditional church to be "cold," and may project that onto the people.

    Cultural differences, including race/ethnicity and class, also matter. What is "welcoming" in a white, middle-class church is not going to be what is "welcoming" in a working-class white church, and the same goes for primarily white vs. primarily Black/Latinx/BIPOC churches. We won't even get into when someone moves to another country and tries to find a church...
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    In my experience, we are very good at proclaiming how welcoming we are but often utterly crap at actually putting those high-sounding words into practice.
    In my experience that is often true. But also in my experience, the last of this statement varies a great deal. I have found some churches that say they’re welcoming, but that do nothing beyond saying it. I have found some churches that try hard, but don’t really know what they’re doing. And I have found some that actually do a very good job of being truly welcoming.

    Beyond that, I agree with @churchgeek.

  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    It's worth remembering that the Ship is NOT a church, and has a different mission. If a person shows up and complains (as some have done) that there is offensive content, whether in terms of subject or in terms of language, he/she is likely to be told that we are "unrestful" and invited to either confine him/herself to Heaven and All Saints, or, if still disturbed, to kindly go elsewhere. No one is looking to blandize the whole Ship in order to make such people feel welcome. It's not in our mission, if I can put it that way. To (for example) forbid four-letter words and discussions of sex and politics (and even religion!) would be to severely cripple discussion here. In this case, "welcoming" the easily-offended person would mean destroying much of what makes the Ship, the Ship.

    Similarly, if you have a person who expresses him/herself in a very abrasive and even offensive way (think: the kind of thing that results in standing invitations to Hell) and continues to do so over a long period of time, despite hostly, adminly, and general attempts to help the person see why this is not working for the rest of the community, well, what is the Ship to do? You can let things work themselves out naturally--which usually means ongoing or repeated Hell calls, because people in general don't like being offended, and will say so. But this carries with it the risk of others saying the Ship is "unwelcoming," with accusations of dogpiles and the like.

    Or you can decide it's not the person but the Ship that needs to change in the name of welcome. You can tell everybody that we will be making an exception to general policies for certain individuals--that behavior which would earn blowback coming from anybody else is to be overlooked or excused coming from these particular persons (append list of names here) in the name of welcome. No Hell threads are to be started, or they are to be severely pruned and refereed in a way that no others are, to prevent multiple people from saying "me too" when the first person expresses a sense of offense. That's about the only way to prevent so-called dogpiles if a person has given offense to a large number of people at once.

    I don't see that working. It infantilizes the privileged poster (who doesn't have to play by the rules everybody else lives by) and it creates a sense of injustice in those without the privilege.

    Sometimes, sadly, we have to just decide what our mission is and go for it, recognizing that there will be people who are offended no matter how we bend over backwards to avoid it. Heck, Jesus himself was known for offending people, though that was not his intent.

    I think the fifth commandment is the best we're going to do on the Ship:
    5. Don’t easily offend, don’t be easily offended – Disagreement is normal here. Try not to nurse hurt feelings. Conversely, if you know you’ve screwed up, admit it without excuse. We’ve all had to at some point.

    For church, well, it's a start. But it's also a different ballgame, if you know what I mean. Far more than a discussion forum, and having different abilities and responsibilities.


  • Hear! Hear!
  • I’ve also left the ship in the past as I found purgatory to be unfriendly and unnecessarily combative, especially when I mentioned my church (part of what used to be called New Frontiers). I don’t expect the Ship to look after my mental health (I have bipolar disorder) but I was surprised at how aggressive it can be. I also don’t like others being piled on, even if I don’t agree with their stance; it sometimes seems like there is unnecessary baiting of some posters in purgatory.
    When I came back I decided that I would focus my posting on the safer areas, such as Heaven and All Saints, and I mostly just read purgatory. So I have found a way to fit in around the ship. I used to find it frustrating not to contribute to threads on subjects which I am an expert in (public health, care of the dying) but I’m settled in this pattern now and usually content to just read with the occasional measured contribution.
    Re: real life church, I left the village parish church after an almighty church split which ended up front page news when the pcc took the vicar to court to get rid of him. It was the most hostile church environment imaginable and we were relieved to leave. Our current church was the first we visited ‘with a view’ and we knew it was a welcoming community from the moment we stepped through the door and saw everyone mixing together.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Just posting to say I completely agree with LC.
  • I’ve also left the ship in the past as I found purgatory to be unfriendly and unnecessarily combative; ... it sometimes seems like there is unnecessary baiting of some posters in purgatory.
    My wife felt the same and left, never to return. Indeed she can't understand how I can remain on board.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    @Lamb Chopped two other options:

    1. We eliminate Hell and let the rancor spill out into the rest of the ship,
    2. We transmogrify the commandments into a complete set of covers-everything rules, and the H&A crack down like a whip on all infractions
  • LC mentioned "dogpiling": I think this can and does happen in churches, especially when a newcomer has found it impossible to fit in or has dared to question the status quo rather than accepting the cultural milieu. Instead of asking whether they could have been more welcoming or attentive, the members of the community will do anything to "prove" that the fault was all on the side of the not-fitter-in, exchanging snidey comments about what s/he said or did that justify their position. It's not nice.
  • I don't think the ship is a welcoming place, nor is it intended to be. It is a place where you will be listened to and challenged. It is a place where your views will be heard and argued with and explored.

    As said above - we is not a church. There are many I would not consider suggesting join.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    As someone who reads Purg all the time (Hosting stuff) but rarely contributes, I do think the Ship atmosphere for the most part is like a odd closed club of armchair-bound popcorn munchers out of a Muriel Spark novel, something of a dinosaur or Eurocentric echo chamber. Determined to stay local because global is too much work, or irrelevant.

    The notion that dogpiling 'rants' or 'venting' are cathartic isn't given much credence any longer in Internet communities, and most community-based forums do try to do more than welcome newcomers and then throw them to the wolves. Making fun of or patronising naive newcomers is a favourite pastime for bored Ship regulars and that isn't likely to change. If newcomers aren't around, there is always the default hobby of reviving old feuds and bickering, or derailing promising threads. Those who get to offend are usually those who couldn't care less about driving others away.

    Some of us do wish certain people would post more and I certainly wish some debates could involve more than the usual suspects, but it's very clear why many don't post. It isn't possible without having to put up with endless snark or obfuscation, sexism, racism, homophobia etc, the whole gamut of hostile bullying and often unconscious excluding bias. I've always thought Purgatory is quite literally purgatorial, a tedious repetition of outdated arguments without much hope of purification or change. Of course it is a comfort zone for some and any inclusive or more thoughtful posting would risk 'blandizing' the thrilling squabble fest.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    How could the Ship make space for different voices? The real risk of 'bland' might be voices from certain dominant groups that need to shut up and listen for a change.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    ...it's very clear why many don't post. It isn't possible without having to put up with endless snark or obfuscation, sexism, racism, homophobia etc, the whole gamut of hostile bullying and often unconscious excluding bias.

    Can you provide links to some examples of this happening?
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Not going there, Marvin. That's another festering rabbit hole in my experience, trying to prove or disprove racism or sexism when anyone can deny micro-aggressions.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    How can we change if we don’t know what it is we’re supposed to be changing?
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    edited May 11
    This is a community, not just a discussion board, so it will always have something of a "house style". That house style can be very uncomfortable at times, especially if one is on the sharp end, but the alternative is to lose the community angle, which posters in All Saints and Heaven (including me) value. I'm not sure what the answer is.

    It would help, I think, if eveeryone operated on the basis that they benefit from forebearance as much as they give it, or (according to the situation) that, as they benefit from forebearance, they need to give it.

    My own example of being firmly impaled on Ship culture is this. I post in Hell far more than I otherwise would because there the distinction, which to me is almost entirely specious, between the personal and the political/intellectual does not purtain. Political and theological arguments have personal consequences, and I believe firmly that it needs to be possible to debate the political and the theological in the full light of the personal. This cannot be done in purgatory, so off I go to Hell. Others may find this utterly ridiculous - in fact they possibly will - but having banged my head on this brick wall throughout my time as a Shipmate, this is my solution: a sort of constant background concussion, if you will.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Who is 'we' here, Marvin?

    If you personally don't see any need for change, then why should you change? If the Ship is a comfort zone and works just fine in your view, why even engage with the notion of change?
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Blimey, compared to some boards I have been a member of, this is a model of charity and understanding.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Who is 'we' here, Marvin?

    If you personally don't see any need for change, then why should you change? If the Ship is a comfort zone and works just fine in your view, why even engage with the notion of change?

    Personally I don’t think there’s a problem, but I thought that change was what you were asking for. If you’re going to suggest that I should change then you could at least tell me how and why!
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    We do change.

    The introduction of Epiphanies was an excellent example of change for the better.

    I agree with @Lamb Chopped. We are not a Church. In fact, we are often a refuge from Church, where we can say what we think in a way we simply couldn’t at Church.

    When I’m feeling fragile I stick to All Saints. My fragility is lack of intellectual clout, but that’s not the Ship’s fault. Other’s have different fragilities and - as adults - we choose where to expose them.

    I started this thread - https://forums.shipoffools.com/discussion/3380/can-i-just-say#latest out of a rush of gratitude when the Ship was my refuge for a while. But do I feel the same gratitude every day in the same way I’m grateful for my home.

    The Ship has lasted 20+ years - we must be doing something right!

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    A good thread. I agree, resonate, feel with everybody which is my criterion for a good thread. Made me go to 'Anyone heard from...' thread in All Saints. I'm guilty of everything raised here I'm sure. Feel I am or must be. The Ship has carried me for most of those 20 years. I love it and all who sail on her.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    We sure welcomed @undead_rat ]: )
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited May 11
    That the Ship has kept its identity, ethos of unrest and 'alternative to church' stance for 20 years is remarkable and very rare on the Internet. I stay for those in the community I count as friends rather than the discussions. If I want to talk about intersectional debates or African diaspora issues, I go elsewhere and there are many good discussion forums across the Internet. When I was asked to host Purgatory, I wondered if I might feel more at home or more involved in the topics raised for debate. The dynamics that I saw -- and this could be just my perception -- left me feeling more alienated.

    And this has been a source of difficulty I hadn't known how to raise in Purg itself and one that in part has to do with how to respond to Marvin's questions. What would be my role as a Host who comes in as an outsider?

    It is important to restate a couple of principles from where I stand as a Zimbabwean poster based in southern Africa. Women and minorities (queer, black, trans) are not responsible for 'fixing' sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc in online communities dominated by white British or American posters. Men, and even some women, might still hold the assumption that sexism, sexual harassment and violence is a 'women’s issue.' It is no more the responsibility of minorities to end racism than it is for women to end sexual discrimination and violence. Racism is about whiteness and white allies need to do the work of changing themselves and other whites.

    The principal burden of identifying, policing and correcting racist and sexist posts or behaviours on the Ship should fall on those who claim that as straight men or white middle-class men or women, they are not racist or sexist, homophobic etc. That means more self-moderating and more aware of what might be excluding people.

    For some the Ship remains a welcoming place for likeminded people from Western backgrounds and similar church experiences. Is that enough?
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 11
    Here's the thing: all communities and societies have ways in which they sanction and censure people who don't fall into line.

    All of them.

    Now, does that mean that every instance of "dogpiling" is okay? No. But some of the supposed dogpiling and bullying is quite frankly a sincere expression by members of the community that, in the opinion of most of the community, someone is behaving like a total arse.

    Why exactly do we expect this to stop happening?

    As for not being a church, well, sorry, but the notion that a church should be welcoming to all is a little confused. That a church is potentially open to all people is not remotely the same as saying that a church is potentially open to all behaviour. A quick read of the New Testament ought to put paid to that notion.

    No space is welcoming to all. It's rather like the erroneous idea (also in fact witnessed in a discussion on the Ship) that a shop serving all customers is the same thing as a shop serving a customer everything that they want, such that a vegetarian can demand a meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    EDIT: Or just go and watch the wonderful film Ratatouille and explore the confusion around what "anyone can cook" means.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 11
    ADDENDUM: Because "all are welcome" does not mean "all will feel welcome", the latter is impossible. But it's a logical fallacy that people readily fall into.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    The only time I felt seriously attacked here (Olde Ship) the admins sorted it v quickly.

    Since those heady, far flung days there have been a few times when I have asked for interventions and everything has been quietly and effectively sorted. The hosts and admin do a Great job, mostly unseen; it must seem a thankless task at times!

    I confess to occasionally feeling exasperated by some reactions, but remind myself that others are no doubt equally exasperated by Me. But isn’t that the same in real life...

    Hell is absolutely vital imho.


  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    That means more self-moderating and more aware of what might be excluding people.

    How can we be aware of what other people find unwelcoming if they won’t tell us what it is?
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Marvin, this ground has been covered elsewhere and your post comes across as badgering. Not going there. If you really, sincerely, despite what has been posted don't know what is 'unwelcoming' on the Ship, then it isn't a problem for you and you need not respond.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    How could the Ship make space for different voices? The real risk of 'bland' might be voices from certain dominant groups that need to shut up and listen for a change.

    So speak. I want to know my secret sins. I am guilty of all the isms and phobias and more in my time.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Well, Martin, let's think about this.

    In my experience of online forums and the Ship, those individuals who perceive their opinions to be unpopular or likely to be ‘delegitimated’ or mocked will refrain from posting out of fear of social isolation or dog-piling (calls to Hell etc, even though I'm inclined to agree that Hell is a brilliant relief valve solution of sorts, as @Ethne Alba noted). This tendency is self-reinforcing, as a lack of public support for a minority position will discourage others with that opinion from posting anything at all.

    It isn't about you. It's about what might not be that welcoming a space in Purg.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 11
    Again, this is a well known general phenomenon. When a point of view is below a certain threshhold (I believe it's around 20-25%) it doesn't gain traction because holders of that viewpoint know it's a minority view and don't speak up.

    The thing is, you can't solve that by requiring people in the majority to change their opinion.

    You can solve it to some extent by an attitude that doesn't mock a minority opinion. But that still requires an assessment that the particular minority opinion is not one that deserves mocking.

    Because let's face it, certain minority opinions don't deserve legitimacy. Not all views are equally valid. I won't bother pointing out some of the really obvious and extreme examples, beyond mentioning that quite some years ago when I was part of the Host team, we had someone come onto the Ship basically suggesting that sexual attraction to children was terribly misunderstood AND posting a link to a site that may or may not had illegal content on it, but was certainly too close to the line for us to be comfortable about it.

    Most minority opinions are not so extremely obvious, but I'm talking about the general principle here. Because if the principle anyone is espousing is that every opinion has to be treated with respect and given legitimacy, I'm going to say no. I'm going to say no because of the above example. I'm going to say no because in some countries we've spent years witnessing a small minority of "experts" who don't believe that man-made climate change is occurring being reported in the media for the sake of "balance".

    I'm going to say no because sometimes on here we have people spouting quite ridiculous ideas that are minority views for good reason.

    Again, none of this is to say that the Ship is absolutely perfect on this front. I think it's clear that it isn't. I've certainly had occasion to wince at the way people are talking even when they generally share the same views as me, say on some political matters. But we have to be clear on this. Being welcoming and accepting minority opinions is not about throwing the window of discourse / Overton window so wide open that we provide a welcoming space for things that should be intolerable.

    And it's not about nodding and smiling and saying nothing when someone posts stuff that is demonstrably foolish, on the grounds that doing so would not be "welcoming". I've been on parts of the internet that are like that. It basically becomes a rule that the first person to post wins. And in fact we've seen that that's how large swathes of the internet work, with the result that outrage storms and conspiracy theories flourish. Because no-one has the guts to step up and say that the first poster was stupid and that the latest theory on what QAnon meant wasn't welcome because it made no sense.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    The general point being, I'm not prepared to commit to "being welcoming" without knowing in advance exactly what it is I'm supposed to be welcoming.

    There's a huge difference between saying hi to someone who comes onto the Ship, without making assumptions about them, and saying hi to the sort of person (who arrives quite frequently) who immediately starts dispensing their "wisdom" to all and sundry as if this is a blog rather than a message board. It's literally not prejudice when you're making a judgement on the material someone has posted on the Ship.
  • As the person whose quote in the opening post triggered this thread, I suppose a response might be in order.

    The quotation is a part of a rant posted on the All Saints thread, which screed was triggered by a number of people posting in such a way that it appeared to me could be perceived as pressure on an absent Shipmate to return, with little regard to that Shipmate's circumstances. There was added extra irritation because I quite clearly remembered some of those posting on the All Saints thread, posting quite aggressively in response to said Shipmate on other threads. (I am a bit wary about that particular thread as I've been named on it, along with a couple of other Shipmates I am in contact in different spheres, and reactions are not always positive. It can feel like added pressure when real life is not great, and the Ship is not somewhere to come as life is already too complicated.)

    I also had in mind the responses to a new Shipmate starting here in the Styx (link), following this thread in Hell (link). From reading those threads, I think that Shipmate did have some things they wanted to discuss, but did not manage to post it on either the right board or in a way that started a discussion in the format that is acceptable. After that reception I doubt we'll see that Shipmate returning.

    I would also suggest that the lack of traffic on the boards indicates that newbies are not finding this a conducive place to join, and that perhaps we ought be wondering why that was the case, because if we cannot engage new people, then the way old members are dying off, then surely there is shortly going to be no Ship?

    The other thing I would reiterate, is that we have too many Shipmates refusing to make concessions even when requested so to do. For example, the repeated request to define abbreviations that are not international is depressingly regularly ignored. As another example, I try to label any links clearly and explain the source and what is behind them. This is partly in response to a Shipmate request by someone who could not distinguish between the text and link colours. I find it distressing that even though I have repeated that request a few times, so few Shipmates bother to adjust their posting to accommodate others - those on phones who cannot easily check links, those who cannot see the links, those on slower connections. And no, tiny urls do not help as they make things even more opaque.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    edited May 11
    Returning to the OP's original point about churches, I think we're inevitably faced with the tension between not being able to be all things to all people and needing to be open to change that inevitably accompanies welcoming new people. The reality is that every parish church is its own community with its own culture, and cannot be an attractive place for every possible parishioner who walks in the door. But a parish that is absolutely set in its ways and dead set against any kind of change cannot be anything but an unwelcoming place.

    I lived in two different cities for a few years when I was living in the US, both rather conservative places south of the Mason-Dixon line. Neither of the Episcopalian parishes that I belonged to were exactly familiar territory culture-wise - though I connected to both of them through their choirs, so there was at least some common ground already. Liturgically, the MOTR** parish in City A was less my thing than the Anglo-Catholic shack in City B. But the MOTR place was an outward-looking parish that seemed to be able to accommodate people from a wide range of backgrounds, while the Anglo-Catholic place was intent on fighting a battle against all things liberal* and (I later learned) on the verge of splitting off from TEC over Dead Horses issues. I think I could have stuck around indefinitely at the MOTR place, had circumstances required it, but the Anglo-Catholic parish could not have been a long-term home.

    (**middle of the road)

    (*liberal, even in the context of the rather conservative Diocese to which it belonged)

    I think we have a rather similar dynamic on the Ship. The Ship cannot be all things to all people. But I sometimes worry about the dynamic on some threads (especially in Purg) where it can start to look like a small group of people (usually longtime posters) are dominating through sheer force of personality, part of which includes making it unpleasant for anyone to disagree with them. I think this is kind of thing that can drive people away who are the kind of people who might otherwise fit in well with what the Ship is about and whom we would ideally like to have stick around.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Well, Martin, let's think about this.

    In my experience of online forums and the Ship, those individuals who perceive their opinions to be unpopular or likely to be ‘delegitimated’ or mocked will refrain from posting out of fear of social isolation or dog-piling (calls to Hell etc, even though I'm inclined to agree that Hell is a brilliant relief valve solution of sorts, as @Ethne Alba noted). This tendency is self-reinforcing, as a lack of public support for a minority position will discourage others with that opinion from posting anything at all.

    It isn't about you. It's about what might not be that welcoming a space in Purg.

    I know it's not, but I feel I must be part of the problem just by being a hyper-privileged = old white male. What I'm about to say next may evince that: I find it hard to believe that anyone in a racial, cultural, identity, religious, sexual minority apart from ones harmful to others could not be welcome in Purg.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Shake your head, Martin. It's humorous to me now but did see the shitstorm when I, a Canadian, suggested an alternative term for people who live in the United States of America?
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Well, Martin did say “apart from ones harmful to others”. Calling other people names seems to fail on that count.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    You are simply proving the point about the culture of the ship. It is heavily centralized on the USA and the UK. It's also fixated at all cost on avoiding pond wars. People will differ on whether this is good or bad but the Ship like all cultures has a dominant hegemony.
  • amyboamybo Shipmate
    How can we change if we don’t know what it is we’re supposed to be changing?

    LilBuddha was a great voice of change, and she got run off.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    amybo wrote: »
    How can we change if we don’t know what it is we’re supposed to be changing?

    LilBuddha was a great voice of change, and she got run off.

    My recollection differs on both points, but discussing those who are no longer here isn’t the done thing.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    edited May 11
    Easy resolution to all this.

    If anyone is concerned, do we have your permission ..... If You Transgress.... to point it out to you?


    Or would you rather have a word that we say?
    Like
    Oh
    Choose one?


  • So many comments already, that it is difficult to know where to begin...

    Whilst it is very true that no community can really be all things to all people, it seems to me that Christian-based communities, above all others, should at least aspire to be as open and welcoming as they can. If you want some proof texts on that, I'll happily supply them.

    It is inevitable, I think, that any well-established community will have established a community culture and ethos that most newcomers may find hard to break into. If a church has been going for a hundred years or more, it will have a community story based upon people who died or events that happened over 50 years ago but whose influence is still felt and taken for granted, even if many people now in that community never met or even know about such pivotal people or events. The Ship is well over 20 years old - more than enough time for it to also have developed such a community history and collections of norms and assumptions.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 11
    Caissa wrote: »
    You are simply proving the point about the culture of the ship. It is heavily centralized on the USA and the UK. It's also fixated at all cost on avoiding pond wars. People will differ on whether this is good or bad but the Ship like all cultures has a dominant hegemony.

    I am neither British nor American and yet I could understand perfectly well why your alternative name for Americans was causing a shitstorm. And I told you so. Your response was to say how you’d moved on, yet here you are having clearly NOT moved on.

    Again, this is a case where the complaint that the Ship is not welcoming to a minority view is code for “I behaved like a jerk and I’m upset that I was called on it.”
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited May 11
    amybo wrote: »
    How can we change if we don’t know what it is we’re supposed to be changing?

    LilBuddha was a great voice of change, and she got run off.
    She assuredly was not a great voice for change.

    As for the notion that she was run off, she was here for YEARS AND YEARS. She was here when I left the Ship and she was still here when I returned.

    And quite frankly I was quickly reminded she was one of the major reasons I left in the first place. There. I’ve said it.

    And IMHO she had become worse in the intervening years. She was a factor in actively avoiding some threads because it just was not worth dealing with her. Okay? She might be some people’s hero, but for ME she was exactly the kind of “I don’t want to be here” sensation we are all supposedly wringing our hands over.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    If you ve got nothing kind to say about someone Who Is Not Present?

    Maybe it is best to say nothing.




    Great example
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    edited May 11
    .
  • LouiseLouise Epiphanies Host
    Of course it is a comfort zone for some and any inclusive or more thoughtful posting would risk 'blandizing' the thrilling squabble fest

    Yes this. I've been guilty of it myself, not seeing that my 'thrilling squabble fest' was exposing other people to levels of toxicity and prejudice I'd never put up with myself without leaving - especially not if I was really suffering or endangered in daily life from attitudes like those.

    The way the Ship's rules were drawn up and customs evolved relied, probably unintentionally and with the best intentions (nobody set out to be bad), on the notion of the 'level playing field' but we're now increasingly aware as we have conversations about privilege, MeToo and BLM that we're not on a level playing field. If you let people from powerful groups take the less powerful, more marginalised to Hell or dogpile them or wear them down with constant racism/sexism etc. then you start to lose those voices.

    If you oppose that kind of gradual 'running out of town' by the privileged going on, you will, of course get people complaining about that too.

    There will always be those who it suits not to see the problems of the 'level playing field' fiction or who genuinely don't see it and not out of any ill will, and who thus oppose doing anything about it - sometimes even though they themselves are in a group that can face those problems disproportionately.

    So anyway, I've been here about two decades. I've seen a lot change in real life in that time - attitudes to LGBT+ people is a big one. We all know that what counts as 'welcoming' with that has moved on. When I was new it was a big deal just stopping hosts from being openly actively homophobic. Now there are new conversations to be had about privilege versus 'level playing field' assumptions and some cherished conventions may need a second look if we're going to actually be more welcoming to more people who face prejudice and structural bias on a daily basis.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    The trouble is we've already had a series of posters implying or outright saying that LB was persecuted off the Ship. For those of us who were frequently at odds with her (if that is a sufficiently neutral way of putting it), that series of comments reads like an accusation. Whether intended so or not.
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